As finals approach, it isn’t uncommon to see frazzled-looking students camping out at the library, spending hours at the computer lab, or waiting in long lines for coffee. But what about prescription stimulant abuse? How often do students take these drugs without a prescription, and what should you know about these medications?
Prescription stimulant medications like Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, and Concerta are drugs used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When used under medical supervision, these medications can benefit people diagnosed with ADHD. Prescription stimulant misuse and abuse occur when people use the medications incorrectly or without a prescription. According to the American College Health Association’s Spring 2014 National College Health Assessment, approximately 8.3% of college students reported using Rx stimulants that weren’t prescribed to them within the last 12 months. That means that the majority of college students don’t use prescription stimulants that aren’t prescribed to them, and for good reason:
- Prescription stimulants can cause negative side effects like nausea, anxiety, paranoia, and insomnia. That’s why they’re only safe when used under medical supervision.1
- Prescription stimulant drugs are classified as Schedule II controlled substances (like meth and cocaine) that may lead to psychological or physical dependence.2
- Possessing prescription drugs that aren’t prescribed to you is against federal and state laws, as well as Penn State policy.
- Research shows that prescription stimulants have little to no beneficial effect on learning, memory, and cognitive performance in students who haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD.3, 4
- MedlinePlus, 2010
- US Drug Enforcement Agency
- Ilieva, I., Boland, J., & Farah, M.J. (2013). Objective and subjective cognitive enhancing effects of mixed amphetamine salts in healthy people. Neuropharmacology, 64, 496-505.
- Smith, M.E. & Farah, M.J. (2011). Are prescription stimulants “smart pills”? The epidemiology and cognitive neuroscience of prescription stimulant use by normal healthy individuals. Psychological Bulletin, 137(5), 717-741.